If 60 % of a dog's body weight is carried by the front, the rear end acts more like the engine, responsible for pushing the body forward in sports performances and daily tasks. Learn more how to improve the strength in your dog’s rear end musculature, boost his acceleration abilities and takeoff power, as well as provide great support also to the hips and knees!

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Working on strengthening stabilizer muscles of the pelvic limbs can provide great support also to joints, especially to the hips and stifle (knee joint).

What can I do to help with injury prevention?

  • Ensure good overall physical preparation and strength in the dog’s rear end through strengthening exercises.
  • Improve the range of motion in the joints with active flexibility exercises.
  • Provide effective warming up before any activity and proper cool-down after.

Once we learned what is a proper neutral position in the Front Feet (FF) Up exercise deeply explained in the Know-how for dog fitness blog post, we can use this skill to now deliberately switch between different head positions with the help of reward / target to provide some extra muscle work!

Let’s take a look at how we can challenge a dog’s rear end musculature more with a simple change of reward up and down.

Cookie shifts up and down in a FF up position

Using height elevation (front feet up position) will increase weight bearing in the hind limbs.

When in a nice and balanced standing position, we will lure the dog with a cookie or ask for a nose touch to target to turn the head slightly up, and slightly down.

By doing so, the dog will shift weight between back and forth, which will induce alternating isometric contracting and relaxing of the opposite muscle groups especially in the hind limbs due to the height elevation. This will provide strengthening to quads, hamstrings, glutes and gastrocnemius, as well as challenge the core.

What to look for when performing this exercise:

  • Nice and balanced FF up position with a straight back, feet parallel.
  • Keeping all four limbs stationary while performing the cookie shifts up and down.

A cool trick with these different rewarding spots, isn’t it?

While having the dog’s front end elevated, we can also dynamically engage hind limbs, and work the muscles through active elongations and contractions. For this, we can do some position changes, such as Down to stands!

What to look for when performing Down to stand exercise:

  • Starting out of a nice and balanced FF up position

  • The dog should fold into a down in a controlled manner, all four feet should stay on the same spot

  • Powerful but controlled lift back up to the stand, again keeping all four feet stationary

  • Important: pay attention the dog is ending in a proper down position with knees and hocks in good flexion, and close to the body.


Need a workout suggestion? Performing 5-10 repetitions of down to stands in a row, completed over 2 or 3 sets can already make a nice workout for the dog’s knees, hocks and whole hind end musculature!

So, why not take the advantage of gained knowledge about height elevations and incorporate it also to your workout routines!

Why is strength training so important for your dog?

Here’s why the majority of dog owners and trainers never reach their dog’s full potential …

It’s pretty simple, actually.

They focus waaaay too little on the strengthening aspect of training.

Deep down you already know the hardcore truth, right?

Dogs are the ultimate athletes!

So, the most logical conclusion you can think of is this …

If you truly want a happy, long, active and healthy life & career of your dog, a good physical preparation should be a number 1 priority!

Taking part in daily activities is not only good for their physical health, but also their mental health. … It’s also a great way for you and your canine companion to bond in a new way.

When designing the FUNdamentals canine conditioning course I had all active dogs in mind, including yours.

Here’s the best part.

You won’t have to invest more than 10 minutes per day (though you’ll probably love to).

It’s easy.

It’s super effective.

And most importantly … You’ll have a lot of FUN!

Check out the link below … 

Jana Gams, DVM, CCRP

Discover the expert secrets of canine conditioning

Join more than 789 members of FUNdamentals K9 conditioning course!

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